Passing the Baton--Cubs 5 Diamondbacks 1

It is cliché but it truly does all start with the starters. Once again Joe Maddon was able to manage an easy ballgame as his starter pitched deep into the game. It was a sight for sore eyes as the Professor finally looked like the Professor. Hendricks matched Cole Hamels seven shutout innings and a lot of blemishes can be covered up by a rotation that continues to pass the baton like this.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each had nice days at the plate. The pair had just three hits but reached base in over half of their plate appearances. Javier Báez finally had an ugly day at the plate with an O-fer with three punchouts, but the maturation is that he still managed to contribute to the team despite the lackluster plate appearances. The damage was pretty spread out up and down the lineup as Javy was the only regular to not reach base.

The Cubs have been getting fat off of some bad teams, and it has seen their record finally reach .500 for just the second time on April 19 of the year 2019.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Kyle Hendricks was very good. The Professor worked a very stress free seven innings of shutout ball to earn his victory of the season. The drama was removed early with Hendricks issuing a one out free pass to Eduardo Escobar in the first inning. Christian Walker single with one out in the second inning. Walker ran with two outs and ended up on third on a wild pitch. That was the one moment were the outcome was truly in doubt. Hendricks struck out Nick Ahmed to end the threat.

The Cubs bats remained potent and their relentless patience was on display in the first inning. A pair of walks gave the Cubs a scoring chance against Merrill Kelly, but he managed to escape with no runs scoring on a Willson Contreras ground out. The second inning saw the Cubs jump on a more aggressive Kelly for three straight singles but the game remained tied as Jason Heyward, Daniel Descalso and Kyle Schwarber had to play station to station ball. A Hendricks bunt attempt resulted in a force out at home and Daniel Descalso struck out to give Kelly a chance to wiggle out of the jam. Kris Bryant delivered a clutch two out double to put the Cubs ahead 2-0.

The Cubs had another scoring chance in the third inning, but the wobbly Kelly managed to keep his team in the game. It didn’t matter with the way Hendricks was dealing. It also didn’t matter because he walked Descalso ahead of a one out Anthony Rizzo triple. Kelly was removed after issuing his seventh free pass in 3.2 innings to load the bases. Matt Koch won the battle with a David Bote ground out to end the inning with the bases still jammed.

Koch would pitch the rest of the game for Arizona in a piggyback start. That was certainly a positive for the club getting only 3.2 innings from its starter. He lost the war though by placing Bryzzo on base yet again. Bryant singled and Rizzo drew a walk as the pair reached base for the third time in the game. Javier Báez hit into a fielder’s choice that advanced Bryant to third. A wild pitch from Koch allowed Bryant to score and Javy being Javy resulted in him reaching third on the play. Willson Contreras singled in Javy making it a 5-0 lead for the Cubs. A Jason Heyward hit by pitch gave the Cubs yet another runner in scoring position with less than two outs, but Koch was able to stop the bleeding as a crooked number again alluded the Cubs bats.

Hendricks largely cruised through his seven innings. The Diamondbacks only managed to put a runner in scoring position against Hendricks in the second and fifth inning. Arizona didn't have an extra base hit against Hendricks. He walked two while striking out 11. Steve Cishek pitched the eighth inning and worked around a two out single to Wilmer Flores.

Brad Brach was given the five run lead to hold in the ninth inning. He did his job inducing a weak groundball right to Anthony Rizzo from David Peralta, but the ball clanked off of the first baseman’s platinum glove to allow the leadoff man to reach for the first time all game. Adam Jones was able to softly serve a ball into shallow center to give the Diamondbacks some late life. Brach was able to strike out Walker but then Ketel Marte hit the hardest ball of the inning over Almora’s head. Peralta scored and the D’Backs had a pair in scoring position with just one out. Brach picked up the assist creating a save situation for trusty Pedro Strop. Nick Ahmed hit the ball right to Kris Bryant at third for the second out of the inning without any runners advancing. A diving Strop slider was all that was needed for the final punch out of Carson Kelly. The Cubs are back to .500 for the first time since March.

Random Reference
Kris Bryant hasn't looked good at the plate for most of 2019. The results have matched how he has looked for the most part and so more than a few people have wondered if he is truly healthy. Bryant has proclaimed himself fully healthy repeatedly, but he hasn't been the MVP level player he was prior to even joining the Cubs.

That said it feels a bit like this with the way some fans have talked about Bryant since his production dropped after a significant shoulder injury last year.

Comments

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  • A tough hole to dig out of but, dig out they did......back to .500. Now who is the big dog in the NL? Almost every team has tripped....the Angels did the Brewers, the Dodgers went 5 down then 5 up now...Met pitching is falling apart....

    Just Like (Starting Over)

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    We have definitely taken advantage of a easy part of our schedule. Kyle did well. Was worried that the comeback didn’t hurt his leg. Also saw that Kyle had his 1st wild pitch in 5,000 + pitches and that with some effort Wilson should have actually blocked it.

    Off topic. Addison comes back in 2 weeks from today. What do cubs do with him?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Definitely use addy part time. I know he’s the least popular guy in cubs nation right now but I love how his presence effects team defense. I think javys defense stands out more at 2B vs SS, and overall I think outstanding middle infield defense is part of the cubs identity when they’re at their best. Russell is gonna need to earn ABs with the way Bote and Descalso are swinging it. But if he performs like 2016 Russell with decent offensive production then I think he’s the best option that they have. I’ve made it known what I think about how Russell handles his personal life but I’m hoping the shame he’s brought to himself forces him to focus more on baseball.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think people are forgetting that Descalso can play the corner OF positions. Russell will have to earn playing time but he’ll slide right onto the roster in place of Zagunis.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    It now is apparent that the strength of this year's club begins with starting pitching. In that case, outs generated from this role must be supported and having Russell at SS much of the time allows the team to have Baez at the other side of 2nd base or 3rd base depending on the matchups. Zagunis is a fine player but is 26th player. That all said I think the Cubs are going to trade someone for a sound catching back up.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    It's a minor point, and maybe I'm reading too much into it, but you seem to be insinuating that the roster jam may sort itself out by dealing one of these "spare parts" for a quality backup catcher. While I don't disagree with the premise, (I've been pushing for that veteran presence to spell/mentor Willson for over a year now), I'm just curious what everyone's thoughts are.

    Caratini is likely only out another month or so. Even with his greatly diminished value, I would think Addy would bring back more than a Caratini-equivalent catcher, and Zagunis arguably so. Would you trade one of them for a backup that slots in behind Caratini when he returns? I don't think I would. Of course a deal can be balanced out with other players/IFA money. I guess my point is I don't see trading Russell or Zagunis for a backup catcher to fill in for Caratini until he returns.

    I don't mind the idea, I just think we'd have to shoot higher than Caratini-level (maybe even include Caratini?). Again, just curious your thought process.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Idk, I think, if they were looking a veteran backup catcher, one would already be here. Management seems be happy with Contreras/Caratini.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The veteran backup catcher need is over rated. Caratini was filling the role. He'll be back in a month. They had plenty of opportunities to acquire a veteran backup catcher and have decided not to.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think Russell goes back as the every day SS

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I can see Addy earning a lot of playing time back rather quickly. I’ve already had that same thought about liking our defense so much better when Russell is at SS and Javy is at 2nd or 3rd. It’s just so much stronger that way, but maybe we might even see Russell at 2nd and Javy continue to play more SS. Back to Russell though. He looked to have a good approach during spring training and hitting the ball up the middle more, so I’m gonna expect to see Russell look more like the 2016 version than any other. Right now he’s the big wild card for this team. If he gets his head straightened out and can be another run producer in the lineup with the defense he provides, watch out!

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Maddon has already said Russell is coming back as the SS

  • Great clip!

  • fb_avatar

    Rolling, Rolling, Rolling with a winner!
    Well, I like it.

  • Sweet, they got back to .500. Now they can start chipping away at the teams ahead of them.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'm a fan who thinks that April is a window into what the rest of the season might look like. It's why that ugly start was so discouraging, and its important that a team gets back to 500%. The offense needed two of Contreras, Heyward, or Schwarber to be what we have seen in the past to be competitive offensively. I didn't think Kyle would be the odd man out, so far anyway.

    I like that the management is impatient and has put performace first. Edwards, Happ etc can get their game back in Iowa. Chances are we will see them later in the season.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    For me, the key to April is to remain close/around middle of the pack. The season is a marathon. Some guys are going to start off colder than others. The pen or starters or both can be a little off. They have too much talent to be really bad. Once the weather warms up a little more consistently the cream starts to rise towards the top. The real battle is going to be end of August & September. Leading up to the tradeline will determine what the biggest need is.

  • Cubs are 2.5 out 1st and have the same amount of losses as the brewers and cards. The sky is falling panic(by several cub fans on & offline) after the opening weekend was utterly ridiculous.

    good to see hendricks pitch like he normally does

  • In reply to bolla:

    Looks like they aren't selling after all

  • In reply to bolla:

    Maybe, but we caught up mostly on the Marlins. It's hard not to panic a little after that first week or so. Still, we are back in the mix for now.

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